Uchida, Yoshiko. Journey to Topaz. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 1971. Print.
image from: http://bfbooks.com/core/media/media.nl?id=1826&c=426867&h=4b9b10be3a74cab98209
I've had this book since 2007 and decided THIS is the summer to read it. It is the first book of my summer reading, in fact.
The story is about an 11 year old Japanese girl named Yuki Sakane and her family's relocation to an internment camp during WWII. The characters are fictional, but the events are true. They spend four months in a horse stall at Tanforan Racetrack and then are moved to the deserts of Utah.
The story was simple and moving. I could feel the optimism of Mother, as she believes that all will work out for the family. She is a "gentle, Japanese lady" with a "strong and noble spirit" (Uchida 18). Mother will "observe every letter of the law" (Uchida 32), because she believes if the government is asking them to relocate, it is for a good reason.
Brother Ken is not so optimistic and struggles with his new role as head of the household when Father is arrested by the FBI (almost immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor). When Ken gets upset about the relocation, Mother tries to calm him by saying, "Fear sometimes makes people do terrible things" (Uchida 25).
Yuki tries to remain positive, but she begins to loose her innocence when she sees the conditions of the "apartments" and listens to the older people speak of the war. Her beloved dog Pepper is not allowed to relocate, so Yuki asks a neighbor to watch him. She learns in the camp that Pepper has died. This is her first experience of death and the world changes for her.
Two words I learned from reading this book are "Issei"-1st generation Japanese and "Nisei"-Japanese-born in America.
The title reference is on page 93.
One passage that I thought was beautifully written (I loved the imagery.) is "The car captain's voice broke the silent web of memories in which they all had been tangled up for a few moments" (Uchida 89).
I didn't like the ending, though. The story just stopped, in my opinion. Perhaps Uchida is just giving us the "slice of life" while the family is interned, but I want to know what happens to them when they leave the camp for Salt Lake City. Do they still face discrimination because they are Japanese? Does Ken finish school and become a doctor? Will Yuki find caring neighbors there like she had in Berkeley?